While looking at Google Earth this weekend I noticed that it was somewhat odd the way the Sydney-Newcastle train line has a big eastward loop just south of Teralba.
Why didn’t the train line just continue north-south in a relatively straight line? Consulting Parrott’s 1893 map revealed that’s exactly what the line used to do. Here’s the map overlaid onto Google Earth, with the present day path of the rail line shown in red.
So why the change, and when did it happen?
A search of Trove revealed that construction of the deviation was commenced around 1901. It was one of a number of re-alignments and deviations between Adamstown and Morisset designed to reduce the grade (steepness) of the track, and thus improve the efficiency of haulage. The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate reporting on the program of rail deviations on 2 July 1901 stated that …
The grade will be 1 in 80 as against 1 in 40 and 1 in 50 on the present line. It is estimated that this deviation of the line, though a costly matter, involving as it does the expenditure of some thing between £70,000 and £80,000, will enable one engine to do work which it now takes two to do, and thus the expenditure is believed to be justifiable.
Construction of the Teralba deviation was halted in October 1901 because of a legal dispute. The deviation passed over the workings of the Pacific Co-operative Steam Coal Company, and the Railway Commissioner’s had offered £2,000 in compensation for the resumed land. The coal company thought this too little, and put in a counter claim for £25,000 compensation. Construction of the deviation recommenced in early 1902 while the legal arguments about compensation continued. In June 1902 it was reported that “the Teralba section is being pushed forward rapidly, giving employment to from 300 to 400 men”. The construction was reported as completed in April 1903.
However the argument over compensation was not completed. At an arbitration hearing in January 1903 the Railway Commissioners were ordered to pay £18,460 in compensation. The Railway Commissioners thought the award too high, and immediately asked “to have the amount of compensation settled by a jury, under the provisions of the Public Works Act of 1900.” On the other hand the Pacific Co-operative Coal Company thought the award too small, and immediately upped the ante by suing the Railway Commissioners for “£60,000 damages for the deprivation of mining rights.”
After a lengthy court case in March 1903, the jury awarded the coal company £17,609 in damages. On 11 June 1903 the coal company signed a “judgement for the amount of the verdict, with interests and costs.” But two months later in August 1903 the matter was back in the courts, where a ruling was made that the coal company “were not entitled to recover such costs.” To make matters even more complicated (as if they weren’t complicated enough), the Pacific Co-operative Steam Coal Company didn’t own the land they were mining. They leased it from the Perpetual Trustee Company for an annual fee based on the amount of coal extracted. The Perpetual Trustee Company thought that their payments would be reduced due to the resumption of land by the railway, and therefore they launched separate legal action against the Railway Commissioners for payment of compensation.
Convoluted legal proceedings continued for years, going all the way to the Privy Council in London in September 1904, other proceedings to the High Court of Australia in September 1905, and continuing in other courts until at least May 1906. With the massive amount of time spent in the courts and associated legal fees, I suspect the 3km Teralba deviation became the most expense piece of railway construction in NSW at the time.
The first tramline in the city, running from Newcastle to Wallsend opened in 1887. Only two other lines opened in the next decade, but tramway fervour increased when Edward William O’Sullivan became NSW Minister for Public Works in 1899. O’Sullivan was a passionate supporter of public transport. He was the visionary in the construction of the ornate Central Railway Station in Sydney, and instigated many other rail and tram projects in NSW.
In Newcastle by 1901, Merewether, Adamstown and Mayfield had been added to the tram network, and many other suburbs clamoured to be the next tram destination. Lambton residents wanted a tram between their town and Mayfield. However the Mayor of Waratah, N. B. Creer, was highly critical, declaring that the proposed route
“comprises a variety of pitfalls and the land might subside at any time”
and that the income from passengers
“would not pay for grease for the rolling stock”
Creer’s preference was for Waratah to be connected by a line from Hamilton via Georgetown. The Minister agreed, and O’Sullivan promised that construction would start by 1903. However, drought and a downturn in the London money markets dried up funds, and government spending was reined in. O’Sullivan lost office in 1904 and the Waratah via Georgetown tramline was put on hold. The line eventually opened in 1915, the final extension of the tram network constructed in Newcastle.
In 1918, the Lambton to Mayfield route was again advocated, to provide transport for workers in the western parts of the city to the newly opened steelworks. But it was never to be. In the 1920s the rise of motorised bus services led to a decline in tram patronage, and from 1930 tramlines in Newcastle began to close. The last tram service in Newcastle ran on 11 June 1950 on the Waratah line.
In 2019, light rail services return to the city, and the opening of the Newcastle to Wickham line raises the same question asked in 1901, “Where to next?”
The article above was first published in the January 2019 edition of The Local.
"The land on the suggested Lambton to Waratah route comprises a variety of pitfalls, and where falls have not taken place the land might subside at any time, a great deal of the country being undermined and the coal extracted from near the surface. "
"The Mayor of Waratah contends that a tramway between Waratah and Lambton would not pay for grease for the rolling stock, and suggests that this project might be dropped so as not to prejudice the construction of the Georgetown route, to which the Minister and the Commissioners are said to be favourable."
"The construction of a tramline between Waratah and Lambton is not advocated solely with a view of benefiting the residents living in the vicinity of the route, but also for the convenience of the travelling public of the whole district, more especially the people of the large centres of Wallsend and Plattsburg, who are at present unable to reach Hanbury, Tighe's Hill, Mayfield, or the Hunter River by tram unless they proceed via Wickham, which is both a costly and tedious journey, in order to reach those centres of population."
Conference between Lambton Citizens’ Committee and Waratah Council to discuss the competing routes. Lambton argued that the tram was “necessary as a means of conveyance for youths employed at the Soap Works, a number of workmen who travelled at week-ends and holidays to the river to fish.”
Mr G Fischer, the Engineer for Tramway construction, inspects a number of proposed tram routes. There is detailed description of the Lambton/Mayfield route that was subsequently illustrated in the map in Trolley Wire magazine in 1982.
The praises of William O'Sullivan are sung … “Very little doubt exists that a line will be made if Mr. O'Sullivan remains in power. His vigorous policy has already done much good for the district, and his present tramway proposals are held to be an evidence of his sincerity to make Newcastle up-to-date as the capital city of the great northern part of this State.”
"A deputation … interviewed the Minister for Works, Mr. O'Sullivan, to-day, and urged for the early redemption of his promise to construct the extension of the tram from Broadmeadow to Waratah."
The Minister said "he had given promises in good faith, but a man was sometimes the victim of his environment, and so was the State. Since the promises were given they had fallen upon bad times. The drought, the bad money market in London, and other troubles, and the Government had decided to reef-sail in the matter of expenditure."
"The residents of Waratah … are waiting patiently for the construction of the branch line from Broadmeadow Junction. The line was surveyed some years ago, and pegs mark the proposed route. "
"When Mr. O'Sullivan was Minister for Works he was taken over the route. He decided then that it was the
proper way to take the line, and promised that it should be constructed. However, he went out of office, and the matter has been hung up since. "
Lambton Council meeting: "Correspondence was received from J. Estell, intimating that he would assist thecombined councils in urging the Government to construct a tram line from Lambton, via Waratah and Mayfield, to the steel works."
"The necessity for constructing a line of tramways to give direct access from the western suburbs to the Steel Works at Port Waratah was affirmed by a conference of municipal representatives held at the Lambton Council Chambers last night."
“The proposal for the construction of a tramline from Lambton to the steel works was mentioned by the Mayor ... Mr. Phillips (District Superintendent of Tramways), in reply, said that he could see very little hope of any new lines being constructed in the Newcastle district until electrification was brought about.”
I visited the Kitchener Poppet Head Park (near Cessnock) this weekend.
It was a stinking hot day, close to 40 degrees celsius. Instead of standing in the heat reading the interpretive sign I took a quick snap of it to read later, and accidentally captured an interesting reflection of myself.
While researching Lambton history I came across a few references to the A.H.P.P. and C. Society holding annual shows, exhibiting produce, chickens, flowers etc.
I had a good guess about what ” A.H.P.P. and C.” might stand for, but in the newspaper report of their first show in December 1889 I confirmed that it stands for “Agricultural, Horticultural, Poultry, Pigeon, and Canary” Society.
My December article for The Local is out, this month on the Commercial Hotel/Snake Gully Hotel/Hotel Amos/Bar 121,
on the south west corner of Elder and Grainger Streets Lambton. This
soon to be demolished building was erected in 1888, but in researching
the article I discovered there was an earlier and different Commercial
Hotel in the period 1879-1882, on the north side of Elder St.
The references to it were fairly scant, and I had little hope of determining where it was located. But last weekend, thanks to an 1885 advertisement of sale of an oddly shaped land allotment, and the NSW Globe KML, I’m reasonably confident that the first Commercial Hotel was at 102-104 Elder St, where Raine & Horne Real Estate was formerly located, and Williams Artisan Bread & Espresso is currently located.
"Lambton, committee of National Fitness has made preliminary plans for a baby health centre to be built by voluntary labour. A sub-committee last night decided to ask Greater Newcastle Council to have set apart portion of Lambton Park for the building."
"The sub-committee of Lambton National Fitness Committee handling arrangements for the building of a baby health centre adopted building plans submitted by Ald. T. Armstrong. It was decided to name the proposed centre the Lambton Memorial Baby Health Centre."
"The Baby Health Centre now being erected on Lambton Park, facing Elder-street, is almost completed."
"The centre will serve as a memorial to the men of Lambton and surrounding districts who served during
"Lambton Memorial Baby Health Centre, nearing completion in Lambton Park. It will be one of the most modern centres in New South Wales. The equipped building will cost about £3000. The Health Department is bearing half the cost. The remainder will be paid by Greater Newcastle, helped by a residents' contribution of £500."
"The Lord Mayor (Ald. Quinlan) will open Lambton Memorial Baby Health Centre on Saturday, at 3 p.m."
"Three bronze tablets-two memorial tablets for the entrance gates, and a dedication tablet for the front of the building - were bought by the committee."
The intersection of Elder and Grainger streets was at one time the hotel hub of Lambton, with three of its four corners hosting a licenced establishment. In 1865 John Stoker opened the Gold Miners’ Arms on the north east corner, and in 1868 Michael Doyle opened the Rose, Thistle & Shamrock Inn on the south east corner.
In 1888 the Commercial Hotel opened on the south west corner in a newly erected building. The name was familiar to locals as there had been a previous but unrelated hotel of the same name on the northern side of Elder St for a brief period around 1880. The new Commercial Hotel building was commissioned by Mr G Buckley, designed by local architects Bennett and Yeomans, and constructed by Mr J Frogley. The newspaper at the time reported that
“The building is of brick, containing fifteen rooms, with large cellar 20 x 16, bathroom and water tank, wardrobe, large yard, stables and out-offices. The main building contains a large hall, used by the Masonic Order, 36 x 18, with ante-room attached; billiard-room, 26 x 26, high and lofty, fitted with fire-place, large-sized table, and eleven ventilators, making it cosy in winter and cool in the summer.”
The first publican was Mr W Brown, followed by John Sample in 1889. Another notable publican was George Smith, who held the license of the Commercial Hotel from 1901 to 1912, before becoming publican of the Northumberland Hotel at the other end of Elder St from 1913 to 1920.
After 84 years of trading as the Commercial Hotel, in 1972 it was renamed the Snake Gully Hotel. In 1979 it became the Hotel Amos, then reverted to Snake Gully Hotel in 1982. In 2002 it was renamed Bar 121, and then renamed to Snake Gully Hotel again in 2016. The hotel closed in August 2018 bringing to an end over 150 years of continuous hotel operations at the Elder/Grainger St intersection.
The article above was first published in the December 2018 edition of The Local.
The First “Commercial Hotel” in Lambton
Several books, including one I collaborated on (Lambton, A nineteenth century mining town, 2nd edition) state that the Commercial Hotel on the south west corner of Elder/Grainger Streets dates from 1880. This is incorrect. While researching this article I discovered that the Commercial Hotel of 1880 was a different hotel, somewhere on the north side of Elder St. The Commercial Hotel that opened in 1888 on the southern side of Elder St was described at the time as a newly erected hotel.
“erected upon a quarter of an acre of land, fronting Elder-street, and running through to De-Vitre-street, thus having two frontages to the principal streets.”
In August 1882 the Newcastle Morning Herald reported that …
“Messrs. W. Lightfoot and Son have removed to Lambton, and commenced business in the premises in Elder-street, lately known as the Commercial Hotel, as grocers, drapers, ironmongers, dealers in colonial produce, etc.”
A few years later, in January 1885, the property was again advertised for sale, split into two allotments.
The first allotment is described as having a frontage to Elder St of 33 feet. Note however that the second allotment has a frontage to Elder St of 18 feet but a frontage to De Vitre St of 35 feet. The difference in frontages can only occur if the block is either wedge shaped, or has an irregular shape. Loading up lot boundaries from the NSW Globe KML (from NSW Governement Spatial Services) into Google Earth shows that there are no wedge shaped blocks on the north side of Elder St, but there is an irregular set of lots where
the total area is 0.25 acres (matching the area described in the 1882 sale)
the western lot has a frontage to Elder St of 33 feet, and the eastern lot a frontage of 18 feet (matching the details of the 1885 sale)
There are no other lots that match the details of the 1882 and 1885 sale advertisements, so I am reasonably confident that this is where the first Commercial Hotel in Lambton was situated. The site is at address 102-104 Elder St, where Raine & Horne Real Estate was formerly located, and Williams Artisan Bread & Espresso is currently located.
The University of Newcastle Cultural Collections has another Ralph Snowball photograph of the Commercial Hotel, captioned “George Smith’s Commercial Hotel, Lambton NSW, 11 August 1891”. The date cannot be right as George Smith did not become licensee of the Commercial Hotel until late 1900 or early 1901.
"Richard Ward applied for the transfer of his license of the Marquis of Lorne Hotel, Dixon street, to a house in Elder-street." The request was refused by the bench. Was the house in Elder St the Commercial Hotel which R Ward occupied in 1882?
"Messrs. W. Lightfoot and Son have removed to Lambton, and commenced business in the premises in Elder-street, lately known as the Commercial Hotel, as grocers, drapers, ironmongers, dealers in colonial produce, etc."
FOR SALE - "That splendid BUSINESS PREMISES situate in the best part of Elder-street, Lambton, and occupied at present by W. Lightfoot and Sons as a Drapery establishment, consisting of two good shops,
with a seven-roomed dwelling, kitchen, out buildings, and two underground tanks. The land has a frontage to Elder-street of 33 feet, by a depth running back to De Vitre street."
"The new hotel built to the order of Mr. G. Buckley, situate at the junction of Elder and Grainger streets, is now complete." "Mr. Brown has spared no pains in tastefully furnishing every room, so that the Commercial Hotel, with its genial host and sanitary surroundings, can be safely recommended as ranking amongst the first-class hotels of the district."
At the license renewal hearing, the Commercial Hotel is described as "a fairly new brick building of two storeys" with "nine bedrooms, six of which were available to the public." The licensee at the time was Stephen Thomas Shipley, and the owner was Anne Jane Buckley.